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Morning Memo: Another DHHS hire raises questions; FEC chides Tillis camp

ANOTHER HIRE RAISES QUESTIONS AT DHHS -- Unadvertised job goes to former tea party member: The state Department of Health and Human Services has filled a newly created $95,000 senior planner position with a Greenville woman who was a medical school lecturer for three years but who has been absent from the health care labor force since 2002.

Margaret "Mardy" Peal, 42, has been hired as part of the "Partnership for a Healthy North Carolina," Gov. Pat McCrory’s initiative to allow private insurance companies to run the government’s health care program for the poor in North Carolina.

Peal gave $1,250 to the McCrory campaign in 2012. She helped organize the Eastern North Carolina Tea Party in 2010. The job was not posted, which prevented others from applying. Department officials declined to provide a job description or list Peal’s duties. Read more here.

***More on Peal and news from the U.S. Senate race below in the Dome Morning Memo.***

Morning Memo: What Pat McCrory and Bev Perdue have in common

SENATE OVERRIDE VOTE EXPECTED: The state House on Tuesday took little more than half an hour to override the governor’s vetoes of two bills, on immigration and drug-testing welfare recipients. The resurrected legislation now passes to the Senate, which will vote Wednesday morning and is expected to easily override. Gov. Pat McCrory lobbied House members to sustain the vetoes to little success -- but he didn't try a similiar effort with lawmakers in the Senate, a chamber that he has been at odds with for most of the legislative session.

HOW PAT McCRORY AND BEV PERDUE ARE ALIKE: From Catawba College political expert Michael Bitzer: "What appears to be constant between the two governors is the distaste by independent voters. While (former Gov. Bev) Perdue faired worse earlier than (Gov. Pat) McCrory has, they both have reached a similar point of nearly 50 percent disapproval among independent voters. While the Perdue-McCrory gap is pretty noticeable among independents expressing their disapproval, the convergence in August, after the dust of the legislative sessions had settled, is pretty striking." See his analysis of polling results and the one chart that tells the McCrory story.

***Read more on the override votes in the House and where the N.C. delegation stands on Syria below in the Dome Morning Memo.***

House, Senate delay override votes while McCrory pushes his case

Republican legislative leaders convened at noon Tuesday to consider whether to override Gov. Pat McCrory’s two vetoes but did not take immediate action.

The House recessed until 4:30 p.m. to give lawmakers time to travel to Raleigh after the holiday weekend. The immigration measure and drug testing bill originated in the House, so the chamber must act first. The waiting Senate recessed until Wednesday morning to give the House time to vote.

Republicans and Democrats in the House made plans to meet privately this afternoon before the veto session. Both chambers are expected to void the vetoes by the necessary three-fifths majority but the delay gave McCrory more time to convince his GOP brethren to sustain.

Congressman David Price says Raleigh 'agitation' trumps talk of DC gridlock

Democratic Congressman David Price said Wednesday he is hearing a good deal from constituents about the politics in the state capital rather than the nation's capital these days.

"It's as much or more about Raleigh and what's going on here as it is what's going on in Washington," the Chapel Hill lawmaker told N&O reporters and editors. "Maybe Washington gridlock after a while gets to seem like old news.

"I haven't seen it this way ever; I think you'd have to go back to the civil rights years," he continued. "Certainly not since I've been in office has there been this much agitation over state level issues."

NC Republicans sign name to immigration overhaul effort

A handful of prominent North Carolina business leaders and lawmakers are joining a national effort to urge the Republican Congress to support an immigration overhaul.

The letter -- sent by major Republican donors such as Vice President Dan Quayle, Carlos Gutierrez, the commerce secretary under President George W. Bush, and Karl Rove -- calls for "legal status" to those living in the country illegally.

In North Carolina, developer Judd Ammons, prominent farmer John Barnes, agribusiness leader Frank Granger and homebuilder Tim Minton joined Republican state Reps. Tom Murry of Morrisville and Tim Moffitt of Asheville in signing their names to the effort.

Document(s):
immigrationletter.pdf

Morning Memo: Perdue closes her campaign for good, leave Democratic party hanging

PERDUE CLOSES CAMPAIGN ACCOUNT: From AP: Former N.C. Gov. Beverly Perdue has closed her campaign accounts, distributing the more than $1.2 million political war chest raised for her derailed 2012 re-election bid. Nearly $800,000 went to the Democrat and her husband to repay personal loans made to her political campaigns between 2000 and 2008, according to campaign finance disclosure reports filed last week with the N.C. Board of Elections.

Another $200,000 went to a pair of writers assisting Perdue with her autobiography and about $120,000 went to a charity. Most of the remainder was paid to lawyers and campaign staff.

***Find out who Perdue left off her campaign spending list below in the Dome Morning Memo.***

In surprise vote, House defeats Wake schools bill

Wake County schools’ multi-billion-dollar real estate portfolio will remain under the control of Wake County school board, barring renewed reconsideration of a bill that would have given control to the county commission. It failed to pass the House Wednesday afternoon, on a 54-62 vote.

Morning Memo: GOP not united on budget; Tillis explains abortion vote

REPUBLICANS SCRAMBLE TO PASS THEIR OWN BUDGET: Ten House Republicans voted against their party's $20.6 billion spending plan, including one of the chief budget writers. GOP leaders held an extra lengthy caucus meeting Tuesday to whip members to vote for the bill but hours before hand lobbyists reported that it looked like it could fail.

The House passed the budget on a 66-52 preliminary vote. … It’s somewhat unusual for the majority party to lose more than a handful of its members’ on a budget vote. It’s even rarer for a budget committee leader to vote against the budget as did Rep. Linda Johnson, a Kannapolis Republican.“I was not pleased with the education budget,” Johnson said. (More below.)

THOM TILLIS SETS HIS ABORTION VOTE STRAIGHT: Every move House Speaker Thom Tillis makes is viewed through the prism of his U.S. Senate campaign in 2014. And for weeks the Republican's rationale for supporting the House's much-debated abortion measure remained quiet. Asked about it Tuesday, Tillis said "it happens to be something that I support and I thought if I didn't, they'd say, 'Why didn't you?' so I thought would solve the question by making it very clear where I stood on the bill." It puts Tillis, who is considered a moderate Republican, in the same position as Rick Santorum. (Read why below.)

***Keep reading for more North Carolina political intelligence in today's Dome Morning Memo. Send news and tips to dome@newsobserver.com.***

Morning Memo: Speaker's hometown paper calls for his resignation

HOUSE SPEAKER'S HOMETOWN PAPER CALLS FOR HIS RESIGNATION: Responding to the second story (here and here) in a month about House Speaker Thom Tillis skipping session to fundraise for his U.S. Senate campaign, The Charlotte Observer editorial board said he needs to resign his post. In an editorial headlined, "Tillis tries but can't serve two masters," they concluded: "It’s fine that Tillis is interested in higher office, and we don’t fault him for recognizing the need to raise millions. But the fiscal year started three weeks ago and the legislature still has not agreed on a budget. Tillis is missing sessions. His actions are raising questions of conflict of interest.

"He has shown he can’t give his undivided attention to the N.C. House and the U.S. Senate at the same time. He should give up his Speaker’s gavel, resign from his House seat and give his full energy to his Senate bid, unencumbered by such distractions as running the state."

Facing this question before, Tillis has said he intends to remain speaker and do his job. But he also said he wouldn't actively campaign during the legislative session, a pledge that is in question. Some Republicans are starting to privately grumble that he may need to step down. Read the editorial here.

PAT McCRORY ON HIS FALLING APPROVAL RATINGS: Meh. WCNC-TV's Dave Wagner interviewed Gov. Pat McCrory and asked about the latest PPP numbers showing McCrory in the negative for the first time in his term. Accccording to a @WagnerWCNC tweet, McCrory replied: "I'm shocked they're not lower, cause we're stepping on the toes of the status quo."

***Welcome to the Dome Morning Memo -- more North Carolina political news and analysis below.****

Morning Memo: McCrory's taxing pledge; Tillis super PAC money questioned

TAX BILL NOW PUTS FOCUS ON McCRORY: Gov. Pat McCrory pledge in his campaign to make any tax overhaul revenue neutral. It was the only specific detail he offered and came under pressure from Democratic candidate Walter Dalton who warned such a tax bill, if not revenue neutral, could lead to huge cuts in government spending on popular services.

With legislative approval Wednesday, the two-billion tax bill goes to the governor. Will he meet his pledge, one he repeated just months ago in his State of the State address? It depends. The governor's office called the bill fiscally responsible and essentially revenue-neutral in the first year at about $35 million in less revenue. From there, the bill is nowhere close to bringing in as much state revenue as projected. And McCrory is moving the goalposts and redefining what he meant. (Read below to see how the governor's office is positioning itself.)

TILLIS SUPER PAC GETS BIG CHECKS FROM 3 HE HELPED PUT ON UNC BOARD: A super PAC for House Speaker Thom Tillis recently raised $105,000 from five donors for his U.S. Senate race, including $70,000 from three men the House appointed to the University of North Carolina Board of Governors.

The contributions raise more questions about whether donations to the Republican candidate’s bid are connected to legislation in the chamber he controls. They also highlight Tillis’ ability to raise money when other lawmakers are limited in soliciting campaign contributions. W.G. Champion Mitchell said his $25,000 contribution had nothing to do with his recent appointment to the university’s governing board. “I want to see him be our next senator,” Mitchell said. “That is the answer.” Read more here.

***Get a full roundup of North Carolina political news and analysis below in the Dome Morning Memo.***

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